As a parent, you always try to act in your child’s best interests. Therefore, it may seem like no big deal when you hear the term “best interests of the child” used in legal proceedings. However, if you are getting divorced or seeking a change to your current child custody or visitation agreement, then it is important to know exactly what “best interests of the child” means to Virginia courts.
10 Factors Relevant to Best Interests of the Child in Virginia
According to §20-124.3 of the Virginia Code, the following are what the court shall consider when determining what is in the best interest of a child for custody or visitation purposes:
- The age, physical condition, and mental condition of the child, with consideration given to the child’s changing developmental needs.
- The age, physical condition, and mental condition of each parent.
- The relationship between each parent and the child. The court will consider whether the parent has a positive involvement in the child’s life and the parent’s ability to assess and meet the child’s emotional, intellectual, and physical needs.
- The needs of the child. This includes the child’s relationships with other people such as siblings, extended family members, and peers.
- The role each parent has already played in raising and caring for the child and the role the parent plans to play in the future.
- How likely each parent is to support the child’s relationship with the other parent. If one parent has unreasonably denied the other parent contact or visitation with the child, then that may be considered by the court.
- The relative willingness of each parent to maintain a close relationship with the child, and the relative willingness of each parent to cooperate in resolving disputes concerning the child.
- The reasonable preference of the child if the child is of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age, and experience to express a preference.
- Any history of family abuse or sexual abuse. If there is a history of this type of abuse, then the court may disregard how likely each parent is to support the child’s relationship with the parent, as described in section 6 above.
- Any other factors that the court determines to be necessary and proper in making a fair determination about the best interests of the child.
What is in the best interests of one of your children may, or may not, be in the best interest of all of your children. Each child’s best interests should be considered on an individual basis according to the standards described above.
What to Review With Your Virginia Child Custody Lawyer
After reviewing the law described above, you may feel confident that the child custody or visitation arrangement that you are seeking is in your child’s best interests. However, determining what is in a child’s best interests can be more complicated than you think especially if both parents and the child are not on the same page. Additionally, circumstances may change as your child gets older and as parents’ lives change. Therefore, what is in the best of a child at one time may not be in the best interests of the child forever.
In order to prevent any unexpected complications or surprises in the child custody or visitation order, it is important to work with a family law attorney at Quest Law PLLC as soon as possible. Stephen will review your options with you, help you gather the necessary evidence, and work hard to help you achieve your goals. Together, we can look at all of the factors that may influence what is in your child’s best interests, and we can work to convince the court about what should happen for your child or children.
We know this is a hard time for you and your family. We are here to help you protect your kids and your relationship with them. Call us or reach out to us via this website to schedule an initial consultation today.